Sunday, September 19, 2010
Included in my internship, I have been working on a certification program called BTEC. It is based out of the UK but is internationally recognized. There are different types of BTEC and different levels that one can earn. But, it is basically a practical assessment of skills that are learned. Out at basecamp, two different BTECs are offered. You can work towards a leading biological surveys and/or a leadership certification. My program offers me a leading biological surveys certification, which I spend additional time working on each week. The group of volunteers doing the biological BTEC get weekly assignments that force us to learn general safety, environmental safety, information about local partnership organizations, how to lead surveys, and information about the surrounding environments. All assignments were encouraged to be researched in our library that contains multiple scientific books, and allowed the use of basecamp´s actual outlines and staff as sources of reference.
The first week we each had to create Environmental Assessment Plans, with using the basecamp´s real EAPs as guidelines, to show safety procedures and steps in the result of different potential threats. For example, I did an EAP on a snake bite, which included the step by step procedure of what to do in the event that someone is bitten by a snake. We also needed to do a risk assessment, listing 15 potential hazards, their likelihood, and what to do to avoid them or how to handle them, such as dehydration, bug bites, and slipping on trails. The second week´s assignment included a description of what a target species is and an indicator species. We also had to pick what area we wanted to specify when doing our research, amphibians and reptiles, butterflies, or birds. From that selection, we had to list ten families of that area and describe their habitat, life cycle, identifying characteristics, and other important information. The third week we handed in a rough draft of an essay that is to identify characteristics of the three types of habitat we find on the reserve, including riparian, secondary, and primary forests. The fourth week we turned in our final essay of approximately 5 pages. And the fifth week, our assignment was to describe potential environmental impacts of surveys on the species we are studying, and a description of each of GVI´s partnerships with local organizations and communities and how its locally beneficial.
Meanwhile, being a certification based on practical demonstration, we were also all preparing to conduct a survey in our area that we focused on for the assignments. The location of basecamp provides access to tons of different species in each of the three areas of focus. However, I noticed that almost immediately that I would struggle with learning about amphibians the most. Their scientific names and difficulty to identify, made them an area that I knew I would have to force myself to become more familiar with. So, I picked my area of study to be amphibians and reptiles. I went on extra surveys for amphibian and reptiles and became familiar with the project proposal that GVI has created in order to receive permission from the reserve and the government in order to conduct the survey. When leading a survey, although a staff member is still supervising, you are in charge of preparing everything needed. Every survey always needs to take a medical kit (already packaged and filled in the staff cabin) and an operating radio. Additionally, I needed to prepare equipment for my specific survey. I led a visual encounter amphibian and reptile survey, so I needed to pack small plastic bags to catch the frogs, a scale, a caliber for measurements, a clipboard and data sheet for the data collected, a weathermachine, a container to bring back any unidentified species, and plates which contain photos and a description of the species to help with identification, all in dry bag to be carried by someone. I needed to write the names of everyone going on the survey, location, and a time of return on the whiteboard in the commodore so everyone was aware we weren´t on basecamp. Also, I had to give a safety talk and briefing of what, how, and why we are doing our survey. Finally, I needed to be the main overseer of the survey, making sure we were keeping on time and doing things correctly. Volunteers working on their BTEC get a practice survey first, where they will get constructive feedback on how to improve and any information that might have been left out. In order to pass the actual BTEC survey, only a few minor mistakes or bits of information can be missed, but feedback is still provided after the survey, and you are encouraged to lead more surveys with staff supervision in the future.